Sean Venus makes some mighty fine spirits, and I’m finding that the best place to enjoy his handiwork is the better-than-ever Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen, an industrial-chic adult playground that offers lots of outdoor seating options. Bev and I liked our indoor-outdoor countertop that was wide open to all the action—families, students, fashionistas, happy canines—out under the setting sun.
Service at Venus Spirits is prompt, friendly and smart, and our server helped us work our way through the tempting menu, starting with two of the house cocktails. I make no secret of my affection for Venus No.1 gin with its citrus and juniper inflection. But this evening I went for a gin & tonic ($10) made from Venus Gin No.2, an aromatic spirit with a nose of orange, bay and assorted botanicals. To amplify the gin’s inherent sensory properties, my cocktail arrived topped with star anise and a bay leaf. A slice of fresh orange was suspended within. Utterly refreshing and delicious.
Bev chose the house Negroni ($14), in which the unusual artichoke liqueur Cynar stands in for Fernet Branca. Simultaneously bitter and sweet, it had a full-bodied feral quality that calls out for … cornbread topped with bourbon bacon! If you can actually sit down at Venus and not order this signature appetizer, you’re a stronger woman than I. An enormous square of the tender cornbread ($8) arrived festooned with bourbon cured bacon, along with a side of honey-infused soft butter. After dusting off some of the brilliant green rings of jalapeño, we consumed shamelessly and without remorse.
We shared another appetizer of crispy brussel sprouts ($14), light and crunchy, autumnal in nuttiness, and interspersed with bright pink caramelized onions. A layer of cashew cream and black garlic sauce underscored the sprouts. A complex dish that transforms the lowly sprout into a baroque dining experience. Another favorite appetizer here at Venus is the gorgeous burrata plate, interspersing the succulent mild buffalo mozzarella with seasonal fruit, tomatoes and a side of toasted bread.
By now, Bev needed to try one of the house Ginger Mule cocktails and chose Venus Gin No.2 to infuse the lime and ginger. We both approved of this fresh, pale green drink.
Our last dish was the evening’s “From the Sea” creation, a beautiful platter of garlic tiger prawns on a bed of pale hominy polenta strewn with roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes, bacon, and cilantro ($28). The prawns were served whole in their shells, leaving the plump flesh especially moist and tender. Compliments to the kitchen for this sparkling seafood variation. As did the cocktails at Venus, these dishes refreshed, rather than tiring our palates. I have yet to make my way on to the dessert course here at Venus. The night Bev and I were there we might have tried a chocolate torte or seasonal cobbler topped with Gin No.1 whipped cream. Sexy idea, gin-spiked whipped cream. Maybe next time. Venus is fun, no doubt about it—invigorating and decidedly post-Covid in its stress-free attitude. All servers were masked, but the rest is up to you.
Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen – 200 High Road (off Delaware), SC Wed-Sun 4-9pm. Best to make a reservation. venusspirits.com.
Growing ImportanceA thumbs-up to Homeless Garden Project for partnering with Growing the Table this year during the harvest season. Since May, 6,000 boxes of organic produce have been distributed to people in need in our community and 138,000 pounds of fresh produce to food-insecure families throughout the Central Coast. Help the HGP keep food on needy tables. Donations at Growingthetable.org